This post has been self-published on Youth Ki Awaaz by Pragya Uike. Just like them, anyone can publish on Youth Ki Awaaz.

4 Stories To Prove That Even Privileged People From SC/ST Communities Face Discrimination!

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This post is a part of JaatiNahiAdhikaar, a campaign by Youth Ki Awaaz with National Campaign on Dalit Human Rights & Safai Karamchari Andolan, to demand implementation of scholarships in higher education for SC/ST students, and to end the practice of manual scavenging. Click here to find out more.

I want to tell you all a few stories which are about my family members. I do not want to take names because naam mei kya rakha hai?! (what’s in a name?)

Representational image.

STORY 1 – Waah Professor Ji, Waah!  

The first story is about a person who is very close to me and is one of my family members. The said person is an Adivasi; she is a PhD holder and a very senior professor in Chhattisgarh, Dr Seema.

She had gone to a fortnight-long training program that hosted professors from different places. Dr Seema was allotted a room with a Savarna Professor, Dr Lata.

Dr Seema was very excited to be a part of the training program and was obviously expecting good vibes and positivity because all of them were prestigious people and were stalwarts in their respective fields.

But, little did she know that on the very first day, her roommate (Dr Lata) would display her casteist side in a very prominent way. She said, “Mere saamanon ko mat chhuna”, “Mere bistar mei mat baithna”, “Mere study table mei mat baithna” etc. (Don’t touch my luggage, don’t sit on my bed or study table)

During the classes, that lady used to carry her water bottle everywhere and would never leave it for the fear that others might drink her water. She used to do these things to Bahujans only.

One day, Dr Seema was very thirsty and it was around 11 o’clock at night. So, she asked for some water from her roommate because the water cooler was on another corridor which was quite far. It shocked me when I heard that her roommate refused to give her water.

Dr Seema has arthritis and it gets very hard for her to move her hands. So, she asked her roommate to fix a safety pin on the pallu of her saree. The so-called “renowned professor” said to Dr Seema, “Chi Chi Chi door rehna”  (yuck, you please stay away from me) and after that, she reluctantly did it, making faces all the while.

When all the professors used to go to field visits, Dr Lata either used to sit alone or only with other Savarna professors. Once, when she couldn’t get a single seat and others offered her a seat with a Bahujan, she outright refused to sit there.

Can you believe that this happened to Bahujan professors and by a professor herself? I can’t even imagine the plight of Bahujans students who study in the same college where she teaches. If this is not systemic discrimination, then I don’t know what else is. Discrimination in educational institutions is a real thing.

Think about those who are poor and illiterate. Despite being educated and privileged, Dr Seema couldn’t take any action against her. Let that sink in.

caste politics
Representational image.

STORY 2 – Kya Se Kya Ho Gaya Dekhte Dekhte! 

One of my family members, Dr Sunita (an Adivasi) had gone to see a medical professional (a Savarna). He had gone somewhere for a few minutes, so she was waiting outside his clinic. His wife opened the door and noticed the car, branded stuff, jewellery etc. and she happily asked Dr Sunita to come inside. Not only that, she even introduced her as a friend to her son. A few minutes later, she casually asked, “Aap kaun se caste se hain?” (What caste do you belong to?)

Dr. Sunita said, “Hum Tribal hain” (I am a tribal). Listening to this, her expression changed and she started talking tediously. A few minutes later, with a pale face, she said, “Aap yahin wait kijiye who aa jayenge thodi der mei” (You please wait here, the doctor will come in a bit) and with this, she shut the door and went inside.

Despite everything, people have the audacity to say that casteism doesn’t exist.

STORY 3 – Kya Karoon Main Itni Casteist Hoon, Toh Aap Hi Bataao, Kya Karoon?

One of our family members  (an Adivasi) had a Savarna cook. They were talking casually and the cook said, “Arre, humari nadi ke paas zameen hai par hum wahan nahi rahenge kyuki bagal mei ek Adivasi ki zameen hai” (We have a piece of land next to the river but we won’t live there because the adjacent land is that of an Adivasi person).

equality in society
Representational image.

STORY 4 : Naukri Jaaye Par Casteism Na Jaaye!

One of my family members, Rashi, had two Savarna cleaning staff at her office who were husband and wife. They had voluntarily applied for this job. When Rashi asked them to clean the toilet, which is a part of their duty, they refused to do it! There can be only two possible reasons –

  • They were not happy with the fact that an Adivasi is ordering them to do their work.
  • They thought that cleaning washrooms is not suitable for their caste status.

I don’t know what amongst the two was the reason but both of them are very casteist.

We can clearly see that economic status has nothing to do with caste discrimination. Whether rich or poor, educated or illiterate, people from the SC/ST communities face discrimination in one way or the other. Till now, the majority of privileged SC/ST children don’t reveal their identity in their class because of casteism. Till now, so many members in our family, who are Class-I officers, don’t reveal their identity in the workplace.

Why is that? Does this happen without any reason? This happens because of the caste discrimination that has been prevalent since time immemorial. People often say that casteism is a thing of past. Those are the same people who ask surnames before making friends or getting married. Those are the same people who still casually use words like – Bhangi, Chamar etc. So, can you see the hypocrisy here?

Except For Bahujans, Nobody Has The Right To Decide Whether Casteism Exists Or Not

It is not a coincidence that there are no Scheduled Caste and Scheduled Tribe faculty members in 12 out of 20 Indian Institute of Management (IIMs) in India. In IITs, as per data available, up until January 2019, SC/ST people account for less than 3% of all faculty members. It is not a coincidence that out of 82 Secretaries to the Government of India, only 4 are from Scheduled Caste or Scheduled Tribe communities.

It is not a coincidence that the representation of SC/ST people in higher judiciary is almost negligible.

All these statistics are the result of systemic discrimination that has been happening both by formal and informal institutions. The stories that I told above are just a few drops in the ocean. I am sure there are more stories and even worse instances. People need to speak up and bring these stories to the limelight.

**Names have been changed to protect identities

Featured image is for representational purposes only.
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  1. Reva Agrawal

    Firstly I would like to say that this is a very well written blog as this not only addresses the topic of caste discrimination head-on but also does it in such way which is relatable to the reader therefore the message is put across in a very meaningful way. I agreed with you when you stated that people believe that caste discrimination is an issue of the past and is irrelevant in today’s world though that is not the case at all. Though people really show enthusiasm towards caste based equality by posting on social media accounts and by various other means, they still show hesitation and think twice before doing anything else with a person from a lower caste, be it sharing food, water or shelter. I even agree that the privileged members of the ST/SC communities do not receive the respect and opportunities they deserve. Hats off to you for contributing in your own way by spreading awareness about such issues so that they receive the attention they truly require.

    1. Pragya Uike

      Thank you so much for your valuable feedback, Reva! It really means a lot. Thanks for being a wonderful ally 🙂

  2. Aditi Verma

    “What’s in a name?” The answer is religion.
    As brought out by the aforementioned stories caste-based discrimination is prevalent in every sphere of society, and that’s because it hardly has anything to do with economic status, it starts and ends at the way we perceive people from a certain caste due to the stigmas that prevail. Education barely affects the way we look at them, simply because we are not taught about all these caste-based superstitions in our current education model. From an economically disadvantaged to a privileged person from the “lower” caste, everyone at some point has experienced caste chauvinism either in the form of unfair and disrespectful treatment or being forced to hide their identities to avoid facing casteism. There is no denying that caste impacts the way a majority of people think, irrespective of which class of the economy they belong to and how seemingly educated they are. It is frightening to note how fundamentally rooted these biases are and what it will take to unlearn them.

    1. Pragya Uike

      Thank you so much for your response, Aditi! It really means a lot.
      Also, thanks for being an amazing ally 🙂

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Now as an MH Fellow with YKA, she’s expanding her impressive scope of work further by launching a campaign to facilitate the process of ensuring better menstrual health and SRH services for women residing in correctional homes in West Bengal. The campaign will entail an independent study to take stalk of the present conditions of MHM in correctional homes across the state and use its findings to build public support and political will to take the necessary action.

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The long-term aim of the campaign is to develop an open culture where menstruation is not treated as a taboo. The campaign also seeks to hold the schools accountable for their responsibilities as an important component in the implementation of MHM policies by making adequate sanitation infrastructure and knowledge of MHM available in school premises.

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Harshita is a psychologist and works to support people with mental health issues, particularly adolescents who are survivors of violence. Associated with the Azadi Foundation in UP, Harshita became an MHM Fellow with YKA, with the aim of promoting better menstrual health.

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A student from Delhi School of Social work, Vineet is a part of Project Sakhi Saheli, an initiative by the students of Delhi school of Social Work to create awareness on Menstrual Health and combat Period Poverty. Along with MHM Action Fellow Sabna, Vineet launched Menstratalk, a campaign that aims to put an end to period poverty and smash menstrual taboos in society.

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Find out more about her campaign here.

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A former Assistant Secretary with the Ministry of Women and Child Development in West Bengal for three months, Lakshmi Bhavya has been championing the cause of menstrual hygiene in her district. By associating herself with the Lalana Campaign, a holistic menstrual hygiene awareness campaign which is conducted by the Anahat NGO, Lakshmi has been slowly breaking taboos when it comes to periods and menstrual hygiene.

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